Movie review: Hereditary

SOMETIMES, too much hype can be a bad thing.

Hereditary came with plenty of promise as ‘one of the scariest, most disturbing films of the year’. While that may not have turned out to be the case, it is definitely a film that is best enjoyed if you go in knowing as little of the plot as possible.

We are first introduced to the Graham family at the funeral of grandmother Ellen, an abusive woman with a secretive past.

Annie (Toni Collette), Ellen’s daughter, is struggling to process her death, while at the same time trying to comfort her own daughter, Charlie (Milly Shapiro), who was Ellen’s favourite grandchild and who seems particularly disturbed by Ellen’s death.

Rounding up the family is pothead teen son Peter (Alex Wolff), and kind but ineffective dad Steve, played by Gabriel Byrne.

Almost immediately, we realise that something is very wrong with the family, with the tension mainly focused around Annie and Charlie, and their relationship with the late Ellen.

Hereditary is a masterclass in slow-burn pacing. For the first two-thirds of the film, the filmmakers manage to hold the audience’s attention with a film that is part family drama, part mystery-thriller.

There is one unexpected scene that made the audience at the screening gasp, and its aftermath made a few cry, myself included.

Who could have imagined that this ‘horror’ film was actually a tearjerker in disguise?

But there lies its biggest flaw – the film isn’t actually scary. It is occasionally creepy, and has some disturbing imagery, but it is more depressing than terrifying.

It also commits the cardinal sin of falling apart in the final act, and seems inspired by at least four horror films I have seen.

Horror movie aficionados would also probably guess the ‘twist’ halfway through.

Although I highly appreciate the lack of jumpscares, the film’s handling of the ending may cause viewers to lose whatever goodwill they had going in.

But despite the disappointing plot, the film’s bright points shine through.

Collette truly deserves all the praise she has been getting from her role here, and Wolff is definitely the next young star to watch.

The film is also a technical masterpiece. The cinematography is intriguing, with several shots that make you wonder if you are looking at an actual image or a miniature, and the sound mixing is perfectly cued to amp up the chills in the right places.

Would I recommend Hereditary? Yes, but only about two-thirds of the way through. And then it sadly devolves into something tragically unoriginal.